Blue Star Voices
The Light Rail whizzes down Central Avenue, Phoenix’s main downtown thoroughfare, in between tall buildings, apartment complexes, and many a Mexican restaurant. Just north of the Phoenix Art Museum, the rail stops at a shallow, bowl-shaped grassy patch where a walkway snakes around and around in a great comma-like shape. Set back from the knoll are the bleached white hacienda-style buildings of the Heard Museum. As you enter the campus, archways lead to fountains and a burbling waterfall leads to the entrance.
Richard Borgmann, Heard Museum guild member, sees droves of school-aged children come through the doors every year. They arrive giggling and squirming, anxious to retreat to the bathroom or the bus. But by the end of the tour, they are quiet and introspective having learned that the visit wasn’t stuffy and dreary. They didn’t just stare at glass cases full of faux people, but rather made their own beaded necklaces, stood beneath paintings bigger than the biggest big screen, and sat in a carved-out canoe. Some, like the DeJong family, are lucky enough to experience live performances like the one they saw in early June.
Tyrese Jensen is a 15-year-old Native-American young man with tawny skin and a soft voice. Jensen and his family travel all over the Southwest bringing hoop dancing, jingle dress dancing, and other traditional style dances to the masses. They are regulars at The Heard. Believed to have originated in a type of healing ceremony, hoop dancing is a serious sport that has earned Jensen scores of competition wins under his brightly colored belt, and with good reason. During the Heard performance, Jensen laid several hoops, about the diameter of a beach ball, in a casual pattern onto the ground. They lay like scattered Olympic rings until the pounding of the drum launched into a fierce beat. From there Jensen, his eyes nearly closed, whipped through a series of dizzying maneuvers kicking the hoops up his legs, over his arms, and neck. At one point, he clutched a hoop in his teeth, never once breaking the stern look of concentration on his face. Hoop dancing is nothing short of mesmerizing.
“It was incredible,” said Kris DeJong, a military spouse. “Seeing my kids so enthralled by the dancing rather than with their heads in front of the computer made the visit so worthwhile.”
DeJong visited the Heard via Blue Star Museums. For military children, Blue Star Museums is an eye-opener---a chance to immerse in cultures, solar systems, and in some cases, rarely seen events like the Native-American performance. DeJong is stationed in Yuma, Arizona, and said, “We do have the Territorial Prison, the Colorado River, and other unique things but there’s nothing quite like the Heard.”
DeJong and her children are spending the summer traveling to the Midwest to see family and friends. But after having experienced the Heard, she’s busy scheduling visits to places like the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum, the Des Moines Art Center, and others.
She mentioned the World Figure Skating Museum & Hall of Fame and her three-year-old daughter’s ears perked up.
“Oh, I want to learn about skating,” she said. “I bet the costumes are pretty like the boy with the hoops.”
A ringing endorsement if there ever was one.
A version of this piece first appeared in Military Spouse Magazine.